A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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NZ Justice shows courts are useless in a science debate

The NZ court case of skeptics versus NIWA has come down against the skeptics.

The National Business Review does tabloid-style sensational namecalling in the headline (does it consider itself to be a proper newspaper?)

“Climate change deniers shot down in NIWA court challenge”

Judge Geoffrey Venning threw out claims by the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that the Crown Research Institute known as NIWA breached its statutory duties, were mistaken in fact, failed to consider mandatory considerations and acted unreasonably in publishing its work.

NIWA will be entitled to costs, which are yet to be set, as a result of the case, Justice Venning’s judgment says.

Why did the skeptics lose? According to the news report, it was not because NIWA provided good answers, or found the missing data, but because the skeptics didn’t have “authority” to question it.

Some evidence in the case was ruled inadmissible, including that of Terry Dunleavy, a former journalist who is a founding member of the trust and secretary of the associated NZ Climate Science Coalition.

Justice Venning says Dunleavy “has no applicable qualifications” and “his interest in the area does not sufficiently qualify him as an expert”.

He also questioned the credentials of Bob [...]

Do greenhouse gases warm the planet by 33°C? Jinan Cao checks the numbers.

Jinan Cao has been dissecting the nature of the greenhouse effect and a key calculation that I normally just accept without questioning. This will set a few pigeons loose, but it will be interesting to see where they land. The claims analyzed here are the oft repeated ones that the Earth’s greenhouse effect already warms us by 33°C and that a doubling of CO2 directly causes a 1.1°C rise (that’s with no feedbacks taken into account).

Jinan points out that these numbers, repeated as “fact”, are merely a result of misuse of the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. If Earth is not a perfect black body, but has an emissivity of 0.7 (as satellites suggest), then the temperature of the planet’s surface without any greenhouse effect would not be -18°C, but more like 5°C. That would mean the entire warming due to the greenhouse effect is only around 10°C, not the more impressive 33°C that is usually claimed. It means the greenhouse effect is probably less important than implied.

The 1.1°C direct rise that is predicted from doubling CO2 without feedbacks would also need to be recalculated. This paper does not try to do that, but if Jinan is right, that figure would [...]

10 conspiracy theorists makes a moon landing paper for Stephan Lewandowsky (Part II) PLUS all 40 questions

There were only ten positive responses.

There are many questions to be answered about this paper in “Psychological Science.“ Questions worth asking at all kinds of levels.

The authors,   Lewandowsky, S., Oberauer, K., & Gignac, C. E., drew conclusions about skeptics by largely surveying alarmist sites. They got hardly any positive responses, some of which may have been faked (who can tell?). Then with a tiny ten positive responses out of 1147, the authors drew inferences about a group of people which must number between one hundred thousand to one million or more individuals. Worse, of the ten who thought the moon landing was faked, only three or four were skeptics. In the UPDATE below note that there appear to be three different forms of the survey, a point that surely needs some explanation.

The headline of the study “NASA faked the moon landing—therefore (climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science” is drawn from only those ten responses.  Do I need to say it’s a sample size too small to draw any conclusions? I shouldn’t. But this point alone should have been enough for the paper in its current form to fail review, yet [...]

Carbon Tax could raise $1.5 Trillion for the US government. No wonder politicians drool over dire predictions.

Why do we need a carbon tax? A study by John Reilly candidly “explains” (albeit indirectly) why this is not and has never been about the environment. It’s all about power and money — specifically $1,500 billion dollars of it over 10 years. What better excuse to raise funds for politicians? They pretend to save the planet and use the funds to buy votes from people who don’t realize that they themselves pay for the “free” handouts — if not with their dollars, then with their jobs.

This is another piece of magic-pie economics:

A carbon tax would take pressure off Congress to find “tradeoffs” between closing the deficit gap and reviving the economy, according to John Reilly, an author of the study.

“Congress will face many difficult tradeoffs in stimulating the economy and job growth while reducing the deficit,” Reilly, the co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said in a statement.

“But with the carbon tax there are virtually no serious tradeoffs. Our analysis shows the overall economy improves, taxes are lower and pollution emissions are reduced.

The study found that taxing carbon at $20 per ton would generate $1.5 trillion in revenue in a 10-year [...]

A review of “Madlands: a journey to change the mind of a climate sceptic”

Anna Rose is the head of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. She visited us with Nick Minchin to film the doco “I can change your mind” and has produced a book called Madlands about the filming of the doco. Another author, David Mason Jones, has written a review and comes at this from a fairly neutral background. Anna’s approach, which is essentially an ad hom from beginning to end, punctuated with other fallacies, was evident when we met her, and sadly been amplified in her book. When they have no evidence, they attack the messenger. — Jo

[See our one-page version of this whole issue.]

Guest Post by David Mason-Jones

A review of ‘Madlands: a journey to change the mind of a climate sceptic’ by Anna Rose. Melbourne University Press. ISBN9780522861693

His site:


Dare not peer into the forbidden room …

…. and dare not speak to the unspeakable people. Dare not test the nasty taboos and dare not open the Pandora’s box labelled ‘the nature of the scientific process’. Above all, do not admit the integrity of the people on the other side of the debate in which you are involved. Instead, [...]

Monckton: Climate ($$$ and) change. The AMS Archdruids pray for grants!

A Disinformation Statement by the

Armenian Meteoastrological Society

(Adapted by AMS Archdruids 20 August 2012)

As told to Christopher Monckton of Brenchley


The following is an AMS Disinformation Statement calculated to provide an untrustworthy, prejudiced, and scientifically-outdated misrepresentation of pseudo-scientific issues of great concern to us in getting more grants but of no concern to those of the public still at large.


This statement provides a brief overview of why we want more money now, and why we will continue to want more money in the future. It is based on a highly-partisan selection from the scientific literature, presented as though science were based upon the ancient logical fallacy of argument from “consensus”, and further distorted by the bureaucrats of the Mental Panel on Climate Change, the US Notional Academy of Science and Television Arts, and the US Global Cash Recoupment Program.

How is our funding changing?

Well, every summer solstice we all dress up in dustsheets and go to Stonehenge to pray for grants. And our prayers have worked! The increase in funding now is unequivocal, according to many different kinds of evidence. Observations show increases in globally averaged grants. We got [...]

Did everyone miss it? Combet brags that Labor Party doesn’t care what Australian voters want

The line that everyone seems to have missed (or become numbingly inured to)  is one where Combet claims that Australians won’t be able to get rid of the carbon price even if they want to:

“(Greg Combet) said the linkage of the schemes would make it more difficult for Mr Abbott to axe the carbon price if the Coalition were elected.”   [Source: The Australian]

The spiffy idea, apparently, is that voters won’t have an option of voting to decide a major part of our economic system. The Australian Labor Party’s proud contribution to the national debate is to tell us they have deliberately crafted the legislation that way. We the voters are supposed to be impressed that it will be harder for any newly elected representatives to remove it without major penalties. If the Australian people decide to toss the current government off an electoral cliff, the current government is going to fall, but make the nation pay.  Yes, score ten points for Machiavellian behaviour, but I’m not so sure the voters will be impressed when they have to foot the bill.

Over 80% of Australian’s at the last election voted for parties that promised “no carbon tax”, [...]

Wind farms — are 96% useless, and cost 150 times more than necessary for what they do

Thanks to Steve Hunter

Thanks to Steve Hunter illustrations

Victoria’s windfarms have saved virtually no coal from being burnt.

South Australian windfarms have saved 4% of their rated capacity in fossil fuels at a cost of $1,484 per ton.

That’s only $1,474 above the current price of carbon credits per ton in the EU. They are 96% useless, and cost 150 times more than necessary for what they do (except for the times they are more useless and more expensive).

The point of a windfarm is not so much to produce electricity but to reduce greenhouse emissions.

If we built windfarms for the electricity they generate, we’d be better off paying for reliable electrons from cheap brown coal, and using the savings to research a cure for cancer. The point in putting up expensive, infrasonic thumping towers of steel and concrete that kill eagles and explode bat lungs is because it reduces our carbon dioxide emissions, except that it doesn’t really.

Mechanical engineer Hamish Cumming has written a whopper of a report (though I can’t find an online copy of it*). Because Victoria doesn’t have much of a gas powered grid, it can’t take advantage of the [...]